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“How long will this headhunt take?” was often my question when I was looking for a senior manager in a past life. The headhunter would stare back, think for a moment, and tell me, “that depends…..”

How I would learn to hate that answer! And I was mug enough to swallow it!

They would then place expensive ads in the press and wait for a couple of weeks for the CV’s to pour in and to rack up some pricey artwork and ad costs. I know now I was talking to the wrong people.

So how long does a headhunt take? Certainly no more than 6 weeks (from the point at which the client says “Go!” to the point they’re interviewing the shortlist in their office)

The sequence goes something like this:

Day 1:      Agree first client interview date 6 weeks in advance. Watch client write it in the diary!

Week 1:   Build a foundation network. Get on the ‘blower’ and talk to people. Find candidates and sources. DO NOT ADVERTISE – it only adds time and costs.

Week 2:   Start to identify likely candidates and screen them with short discussions.

Week 3:   Repeat week 2, but start Skype interviews with likely shortlist.

Week 4:   More Skype interviews. Decide on Long shortlist. Tell them likely interview date.

Week 5:   Face-to-face long shortlist and narrow down to short shortlist. Inform them of interview details. Also complete the shortlist psychometric assessments - see Psychometrics or Psychobabble?

Week 6:   Attend interviews with client and candidates. Make the appointment. Job done!

Shhhhh……the calender is split by days, not weeks. There’s fat in the schedule above. 5 weeks is doable at a push. Even for the most senior of roles. Some headhunters tell me that very senior roles take longer, but in my experience they are normally shorter because the specification is usually tighter - so candidates are easier to identify and target.

......It's also worth mentioning that one of the weak points in this schedule is the first client interview. It's not unknown for the interviewing manager to put the date back half way through the search and re-schedule it a month later. This is really dangerous as candidates quite often cool off feeling unloved. The interview date is one worth hanging on to and making something of a stand with the client if they start moving things around too much.......

So if your headhunter tells you they don’t know how long a headhunt takes, they either don’t know what they’re doing, or they don’t know how to build a network.

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